Humanity vs Fear

“The little girl was now close enough so we could see her face. Her eyes were wide, locked on Rat Face. Her arms were raised, and I could just make out this high-pitched, rasping moan… In one smooth motion, Rat Face pulled a pistol from underneath his coat, shot her right between the eyes, then turned around and sauntered back toward us. A woman, probably the little girl’s mother, exploded into sobs. She fell to her knees, spitting and cursing at us…I knew I should have felt bad for the child…and maybe even a little bit guilty because I didn’t lift a finger to stop it…at that point the only thing I could feel was fear” (79).

Maria Zhuganova recounts her first experience with the undead; however, she does not approach the zombie with the same rhetoric that is seen throughout the rest of this novel. One of the ways she humanizes the zombie is by the repetition of “her” instead of the usual “it.” This simple change in pronoun has a significant effect on the reader: it creates a mood of empathy rather than aversion. This tone is bolstered by the use of key phrases, such as “rasping moan,”  that further serve to show how the little girl is a victim of a disease rather than the perpetrator of it. Elements of pathos are intertwined with this description when Zhuganova describes “the little girl’s mother [who] exploded into sobs [and] fell to her knees, spitting and cursing at us.” This emotional description can move even the toughest listener as they are faced with the reality that everyone, even the living dead, have people who love them.


This love and care is what causes Zhuganova to feel “bad for the child” and encounter “guilt” while others remain desensitized. She faces inner turmoil as her instinct of wanting to save others clashes with her desire to save herself. The author separates her turmoil from her final conclusion by using a semicolon after Zhuganova discusses what she “should have been feeling.” This separation reveals the conclusion that Zhuganova arrived at: the emotion that trumps everything else is “fear.” This signals an interesting shift from pitying the victim to wanting its destruction. The hatred is not created by a sense of rage but rather by a simple, yet primal instinct: fear.

The author uses syntax, imagery, and pathos to create a sense of escalation for the reader. In the beginning of the paragraph the sentences are short and abrupt, seeming to resemble the cold and calculated murder of the little girl. However, by the end of the paragraph the sentences become more complex, resembling the complexity of emotions battling over each other before “fear” is declared the winner. In this passage, the author uses a lens of pathos to show that treating a zombie as a perpetrator instead of a victim is not a doing of the zombie, but rather it is a change in the emotional construct of the living, who begin to fear what they do not know. In this sense, the author seems to imply that our view of the world, and our actions towards it, largely depend on our perception of it, rather than the actual reality.

Citation: Brooks, Max. “The Great Panic.” World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. New York: Crown, 2006. 79. Print.



2 thoughts on “Humanity vs Fear

  1. I found it interesting how the usage of “her” instead of “it” really made a difference in how I perceived the girl. It’s also interesting to note that even though the girl is a zombie, the mother’s maternal instincts are activated. It reminds me of how animal mothers can conjure up amazing strength and courage to protect their young, thus affecting the whole herd as well. In this case, the mother’s outburst causes an important reaction–even if it is temporary–in Zhuganova. Coupling this effect with your insightful idea that “the author seems to imply that our view of the world, and our actions towards it, largely depend on our perception of it, rather than the actual reality,” perhaps we can understand why the narrator of the entire book wanted to promote the human factor instead of just a factual summary. If the goal of the book or report is to prevent another Zombie War, then facts and numbers will fall flat because they don’t incite fear, which I do believe is the most powerful emotion. The human factor, on the other hand, can bring about this fear in people and allow them to vividly imagine the tragic consequences of another War.


  2. Hi Eeshan,

    I thought it was very interesting how you made the distinction of the salvation of oneself and the hatred of another. Zhuganova seems to have no intention to malign the zombie, but instead desires to only save herself. Thus, her fear drives her actions, and self-preservation and malice seem to be two sides of the same stone: fear.
    Another thing I noticed was that the sentences actually become less coherent towards the ends of the paragraph, rather than complex as you mentioned. This seems to indicate the progression of Zhuganova to self-guilt and the realization that she had to save herself- essentially “a battling of emotions” as you state.
    And lastly, I really enjoyed your conclusion of how the zombie itself is not the perpetrator, but rather the subjective experience of humans is what turns the zombie into a monstrous creature in our minds. As you mention, our actions depend on “our experience rather than actual reality.” I thought it was very interesting that you brought this up, because this also is a concept in psychology that states that we may never know what reality is, because each individual has his own.


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